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The Rise and Fall of Halo 4

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Well boys and girls, I am taking some time off from my NaNaWriMo writing insanity to update my blog.  I know, I have been remiss but with book launches and other books to finish, I’ve been a hoser.  So…..Halo!

The Halo franchise has returned with new developers, a familiar look, great fun and a few sighs of “really?” 

First let’s look at the reasons to run out and buy this game.

Franchise Loyalty – OK that sounds kinda douchy but if you are a fan of the Halo franchise this latest addition will not disapoint (too much).  As the first Halo game not made by Bungie, some die hards were afraid this game would amount to hoards raping their dogs and castrating them with dull butter knives.  This did not happen.  While no new ground was broken in the story, 343 Industries stayed true to the Halo look, feel and story.

Graphics – This is a beautiful game. Even if you are a “wolf pack” gamer that just likes to charge around on Legendary setting, all Skulls set to On, with your dick in your hand agroing everything in sight, take a second to look around.  These developers spent years of work on these zones and they are amazing. It was pointed out to me that if you zoom in with your sniper rifle on a far off waterfall, you can see birds flying around that are invisible without that high powered zoom.

Co-op Game Play – Let’s face it, these types of shooters are more suited to playing with friends than just with yourself.  Isn’t that always the case?  😉  The co-op play is pretty seamless and the instant re-spawn by your partner (less your cool guns) is handy.  Sure, you now have to contend with your lame ass default guns but if you are lucky you can pick up your gear in the general area where you died.  Note, this doesn’t always happen so don’t count on it.

Interesting Mod Assortment – I really liked the mod assortment especially the flying turret that saved my bacon a few times.  My second fav was the rocket pack.  Why?  DUDE  it’s a ROCKET PACK!!!  The “Promethean Vision” glasses were also very handy when shooting in the swamp with the fog. You can also create an illusionary duplicate to draw agro away from you, speed away from or towards an enemy and use a shield.  Personally I found the shield pretty useless but everyone has their own game style and this is why I liked the variety of mods.  Anything that allows a wide variety of gamers with different styles to have fun is great in my book.

Storyline – I admit I like games with a story rather than just a “run around and kill things” game.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like running around and killing things but I like it to have a plot, a purpose.  It’s kinda like having a great DM that gives you a challenging, multi-faceted game rather than just a Monty Haul dungeon. I think one of the best things Halo 4 did was their “mini film” Forward Unto Dawn.  You can get it for free if you bought the premium  game, you can buy it in one piece from the Xbox store for about $45 or you can just watch it for free in five episodes on YouTube.  I recommend you boot up YouTube on your TV via Xbox Live and watch it there.  TOTALLY worth it!!!! OMG!

Lots of DLC– You are given various Spartan campaigns separate from the game (and not playing as Master Chief) to try your hand at.  Your XP here does rack up with your main campaign stats and they do have a handy “baseball card” UI that allows you to compare your stats with those of your friends if you are into that sort of thing. It’s cool that you are allowed some customization of your armor and look.

Now here is what I didn’t like so much about Halo 4.

Lack of Weapon Variety – OK, I just got off of beating Borderlands 2 with its 80 gazillion guns so I admit I’m a bit spoiled.  A few more random drop options would be nice.  It’s not huge but there it is.

Plot Holes – Fine, Halo has never been an RPG but it does have a story line and this one could have been tighter.  Not everyone has played all of the games so a little “backstory” maybe in a free DLC movie would catch up peeps new to the franchise.  The current story line was weak in some places and had gaping holes in others.  If you are going to have a story line for your shooter, even if it is a basic one, make it tight.

However the number one thing that I didn’t like about Halo 4 –

Too Damn Short!!!!!! There is only about 10 hours of game play in order to beat the game.  Now I know that role playing games are a different animal but allow me to compare. The Mass Effect series consists of about 40-50 hours of gameplay depending on how many side missions you do.  The same goes for Borderlands 2 which took me about 60 hours to beat playing co-op and completing about 2/3rds of the missions and there is still a TON of extra repeatable gameplay there. I would estimate at least 300 hours total playing as each character and playing the one current DLC add on.

I know, I know – Halo is just a shooter with a story as a bonus but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be fleshed out more.  When I beat Halo Combat Evolved there was twice as much gameplay in the main mission.  I realize there are side Spartan campaigns and DLC but some people just want the main story.  It felt incomplete.  Here we were fighting fun enemies in varied terrains, trying to track down the new Big Bad who looks like a combination between Nosferatu and Uncle Fester on steroids.

It’s fun!  There is a great side story re: Cortana your hot AI, the bad guy has some giant … thing that does something bad … and he wants to imprision you in it or not or destroy it or steal it or something.  You see? The story starts to loose focus and fall apart but no matter, I figure these hints will wrap up later somehow.

OK, because I’m not a dick, here is your warning. I’m going to talk about the end of the game now.  It’s not like it is huge but if you don’t want any spoilers, skip the next two paragraphs.

 

 

 

You meet the Uncle Fester boss and…. Ummm, he dies. OK, you are thinking, I knew this was going to happen, he is the final boss but you really don’t kill him.  No, you really do but it’s not a big epic final boss battle.  Most of this final is a cut scene that you just watch then once you get control of Master Chief, it’s a few key punches and bye bye Uncle Fester.  There he goes, off the light bridge and into the spinning lava/hellfire/tornado thingy.

Ummmm, that was too easy and kinda lame.  BUT I figure, OK maybe he isn’t really dead (we all know the big Boss always comes back for round 2) but no, he really is dead.  You set off a nuke and you are in this “place”, have this conversation with Cortana, there is a another scene back on Earth and… credits.

WHAT?! After the Cortana conversation I was thinking we were about half way through, maybe 2/3rds.  The story was still so fragmented I thought there was no way it was over.  We weren’t playing that long. Nope, I was wrong.  We were done.  The “epilogue” just left me saying “What?!” I had no idea what they were talking about or what this meant. Perhaps it was a teaser for a Halo 5 game.  If so, will I buy it?  Sure!  But I think I will wait 6 months and buy it at $30 rather than $60.

Is this game worth it?  Yes it is.  It’s a great game.  Do I think it’s the best game of 2012?  No.  In my opinion that honor goes to Borderlands 2 which is incredibly well rounded.  I do place Halo 4 in the top 5 of 2012 which is not shabby. Mass Effect 3, even with its sucktastic ending, won out for story but Halo 4 beats it for its shooting play.

So do you get it?  Yes, get it! If you don’t have to play it right this second, wait 8 months and get it half price.  If all your friends are playing it and they will be playing the next “new thing” in 8 months then go get it.  You don’t want to be a social pariah.  If you really want to be cool – get the limited edition Xbox controller!  This Halo 4 controller is pretty slick.  The pictures don’t do it justice.  The right side is transparent and the lighting is blue rather than green!  Yeah, pretty cool.

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So bottom line – I give Halo 4 and 8 out of 10 and a thumbs up.  Buy it, you will have a good time.

 

 

Do You Want To Date My Avatar?

This is the first of my July Friday series of Tech/Social Network articles.  OK, it was suppose to be the first but the Oakland riot took it’s place last week.

We have a wide variety of entertainment options in the gaming industry.  XBox 360, Wii, PS3, DS, apps for ipad and iphone however on-line games for the PC have been the staple of computer gaming since the 1990’s.  Nowadays, the most popular games are MMORPG’s (Massively Multiuser Online Role Playing Game).  You create characters, usually a fantasy character such as an elf, dwarf, human who has a specific talent.  Generally those are defined as a fighter, wizard, cleric, etc.  Some of the newer games also have genres such as Star Trek characters or Comic Super Heros but the basic format still applies.

You create a character (avatar) who can be either male or female, enter a “virtual universe”, interact with other real people in this environment, go on quests, collect rewards and kill monsters/bad guys.  On the surface it’s a way to unwind, kill time or escape the boredom of dead-end jobs or bad relationships.  In other destructive ways it can be an all-consuming compulsion just like sitting at the pub all day, watching porn 24/7 or huffing glue.

Speaking for myself, I was roped into the on-line world of Lord of the Rings by my friend Val.  She is a huge Tolkien geek and said we could play together.  I soon found out that it was really fun!  We joined a Kin or “guild”, which is a group of other people across the country that we play with.  We started chatting with them using headsets and have even met a few of them in person.  They’ve actually turned out to be pretty cool, normal people.

This is not always the case.  I’ve heard stories about when “virtual space” has crossed over into the real world with unfortunate results.  One friend told me about a guy he met on-line who tried to break up his marriage because he thought his wife was hot.  Another friend told me about a Hoard raid buddy who thought stalking was an acceptable form of off-world interaction.

There are people out there in cyber space who think your avatar is actually an accurate depiction of how you look.  Well, that isn’t true.  I currently play six characters in LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online).  Two are human, 3 are elves and 1 is a hobbit.  Also two are male.  My main character is male which has elicited fun ribbing from some male on-line friends who say they can’t flirt with me in game because “I’m playing a dude.”  Well guys, how do you know the girls you do flirt with in game that you aren’t on a direct vocal link to are female?

Virtual world interactions can be strange.  Here are two of my personal examples:  My hobbit is called Merrywine Butterbum.  I admit, I generated this character because I came up with the name and wanted a character to use it on.  Now, anytime I am in the mostly hobbit areas, I get HIT ON BY HOBBITS ALL THE TIME!!!  WTF?  Remember, there are real people playing the characters you see running around.  I’ve had male avatars ask me if I wanted to be their girl friend, give me presents (like in game money or loot) or just follow me around.  Creepy!  I also had another character I don’t play anymore.  She was a blond human with long hair and huge boobs.  Guess what?  If I was out by myself, guys are hitting on me.  You know, I could be a burly trucker for all they knew but it didn’t seem to matter.  If my avatar had blond hair, huge hooters and wasn’t with a group of people, it seemed I was fair game for all kinds of undue attention.

Is it any wonder that my major character is a dude?  He never gets hit on though he is an elf.  Now that I think about it that’s close enough to a girls in many aspects.  Hmmm, maybe he needs to use more hair product….

For a hilarious look at MMORPGs, check out this show on YouTube.   “The Guild” is based on a group of socially stunted gamers who are forced to interact in real life in addition to their  on-line lives and character interactions.  Felicia Day, who originated the series and plays Codex, also put together a “music video” of sorts that answers the question I posed.  Check it out – it’s brilliant!